Any ongoing turmoil over critical newspaper accounts about pop-ular Lotus Development chief Jeffrey Papows last year were not a contributor to his resignation, an analyst claims. In fact, his resignation comes at a time when the company continues to ride a growth wave.
Lotus announced last week Papows will turn over the reins of Lotus on February 1 to Al Zollar, general manager of the IBM network computing software division.
IBM bought Lotus in 1995. Papows will stay with Lotus until some unspecified time in the second quarter of this year to assist with the transition.
`I think that the customers are going to see a relatively smooth transition,' said Ian Campbell, vice president of collaborative applications research at International Data Corp (IDC). `I don't think we're going to see any [other] changes in the Lotus management team.'In the conversation Campbell had with Papows, the Lotus president and CEO indicated that he is ready for new career challenges and that he might be contemplating an Internet startup for his next job move.
Papows was upbeat and optimistic, Campbell said, adding, `this is not someone who is depressed' about his resignation.
`Anybody vice president and above always leaves to pursue other activities, and that's just the way it works whether they are fired or not,' Campbell said. `I think in this case, it's more true than not.'Still, not even a year ago there was a lot of industry talk about whether Papows would be fired or forced by IBM to resign from Lotus after highly critical investigative stories about him were published in the influential Wall Street Journal. In April of last year, the Journal reported that Papows repeatedly lied about his personal history. The newspaper alleged, quoting multiple named and unnamed sources, that Papows padded his resume, embellished his military rank, concocted tales about daring feats when he was in the US Marine Corps and on reserve duty, and lied about his personal history.
Lotus officials and Papows denied the claims, saying some stories of his daring adventures were the outcome of `water-cooler legend' concocted by employees who idolised Papows, who was interviewed for the Journal article. He further denied the allegations in interviews with other media outlets.
But a month later, it was clear that not all employees held Papows in such exalted status. In May, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) confirmed that Lotus was the target of several discrimination complaints, some of which specifically named Papows. One case that named him was a gender-bias claim alleging that Papows and his executive assistant Sharon Ricci singled out female employees and treated them poorly.
Arlene Greene, who had been a Lotus general manager, reportedly filed the claim. She was fired in October of 1998 after working at Lotus for 11 years and was told that her termination was part of company-wide job cuts, the Journal reported. Greene contended that she was dismissed after she complained about gender and age bias at the company.
Lotus officials countered that the complaint was `without merit' and contained `reckless and unfounded allegations'.
Papows had been Lotus chief operating officer (COO) in October 1996 when he was named sole president. For almost a year, he shared that title with Michael Zisman, who stepped down at the same time for personal reasons. The co-presidents took over the company after the resignation of Jim Manzi. Before joining Lotus in 1993, Papows was president and COO of Cognos.
Campbell said that looking back at Papows' history at Cognos and at Lotus, it's clear that he thrives on bringing companies through growth periods. He turned Lotus into a profitable company and it is expected that at the annual US Lotusphere user's conference in late January the software maker will announce it reached an installed base of about 50 million Notes users globally in 1999.
`They've certainly had a fantastic year,' Campbell said. `He's grown the installed base clearly by an order of magnitude. He's taken it from an interesting product to a core product.'